Group accused of voter intimidation must stay clear of ballot boxes, judge rules

The group has been accused of surveilling voters as they drop off their ballots.

November 3, 2022, 6:31 PM

Members of a group accused of voter intimidation have been banned from coming within 75 feet of ballot drop boxes in Arizona, a federal judge has ordered.

The ruling also prohibits members who openly carry firearms or wear visible body armor from coming within 250 feet of ballot boxes.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael Liburdi, in an unexpected reversal of an earlier ruling in a related case, granted a motion Tuesday for a restraining order in a case consolidating a lawsuit brought by the nonprofit advocacy groups Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans and Voto Latino with a similar suit brought by the League of Women Voters of Arizona.

Both lawsuits accused Clean Elections USA and the group's founder, Melody Jennings, of carrying out surveillance of voters in a "coordinated vigilante intimidation campaign" at ballot drop box locations, "with the express purpose of deterring voters ... from depositing their ballots."

According to the judge's order, members of the group are prohibited from following voters who are delivering ballots to the drop box; speaking to or yelling at voters returning ballots to the drop box; sharing or posting information about voters who return ballots to a drop boxes; and taking photos or recording videos of voters dropping off ballots.

The group is also banned from accusing individuals of committing voter fraud solely based on the fact they deposited multiple ballots in a drop box, and from making false claims about Arizona laws that permit people to return ballots in a drop box on another person's behalf in exceptional circumstances.

Addressing Clean Elections USA and its founder's promotion of a false claim accusing some voters of being so-called "ballot mules," Liburdi ordered Jennings to write a post on Truth Social stating that there are several reasons why voters in Arizona can legally return more than one ballot to a ballot drop box site. Per the judge's order, Jennings, who made the post on Wednesday, also included the relevant Arizona law on returning more than one ballot.

A voter casts their ballot at a secure ballot drop box at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center in Phoenix, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022.
AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

Jennings did not comment when contacted Thursday by ABC News. During an appearance Saturday on "War Room With Steve Bannon," prior to the judge's ruling on Tuesday, Jennings said of her group's activities, "We're actually protecting you. And I want to say that we're out there protecting your vote ... we're here because we love you. And because we want to continue to protect the rule of law."

"This order is a win for all Arizonans, especially seniors who are the most likely to vote by early ballot," Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans President Saundra Cole said of the ruling in a statement Wednesday. "Casting a ballot is not only a constitutional right but a patriotic act."

"This is a critical election for Arizona and for our country," Voto Latino President and CEO Maria Teresa Kumar said in a statement Thursday. "Voters can and should have full confidence that they can participate safely on or before Election Day."

Voto Latino told ABC News on Thursday that it reached a deal with Clean Elections USA to ensure protections for voters using drop boxes in Arizona. Clean Elections USA, according to Voto Latino, agreed they would not appeal Judge Liburdi's ruling against them this week.

In return, Voto Latino said they agreed not seek an emergency injunction in its own litigation filed in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and withdraw the appeal they had filed along with Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans.

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